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How Billionaires Use Non-Profits to Bypass Governments and Force Their Agendas on Humanity
As wealth becomes concentrated in fewer hands, so does political and social power via foundations and non-profits.

As wealth becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the billionaire class is increasingly turning to foundations and non-profits to enact the change they would like to see in the world. Amid the rise of philanthrocapitalism, growing numbers of critics are raising serious questions about whether this outsized influence is doing more harm than good.

In the January issue of the New York Review of Books, veteran journalist Michael Massing noted that, in the past 15 years alone, “the number of foundations with a billion dollars or more in assets has doubled, to more than eighty.” The philanthropic sector in the United States is far more significant than in Europe, fueled in part by generous tax write-offs, which the U.S. public subsidizes to the tune of $ 40 billion a year.

As Massing observes, billionaires are not just handing over their money, they have ideas about how it should be used, and their vision often aligns with their own economic interests. For this reason, the philanthropy industry deserves rigorous scrutiny, not a free pass because it is in the service of good.

Massing’s argument followed a study released in January by the watchdog organization Global Policy Forum, which found that philanthropic foundations are so powerful they are allowing wealthy individuals to bypass governments and international bodies like the United Nations in pursuit of their own agendas. What’s more, this outsized influence is concentrated in the United States, where 19 out of the top 27 largest foundations are based. These 27 foundations together possess $ 360 billion, write authors Jens Martens and Karolin Seitz.

Such dramatic wealth accumulation has disturbing implications. "What is the impact of framing the problems and defining development solutions by applying the business logic of profit-making institutions to philanthropic activities, for instance by results-based management or the focus on technological quick-win solutions in the sectors of health and agriculture?" the report asks.

These questions are not new, as social movements have long raised the alarm about the global impact of the ever-expanding philanthropy sector. In 2010, the international peasant movement La Via Campesina blasted the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s acquisition of Monsanto shares as proof that its role in privatizing the global food supply and exporting big agribusiness, from Africa to North America, should be viewed through a commercial rather than humanitarian lens.

“It is really shocking for the peasant organizations and social movements in Haiti to learn about the decision of the [Gates] Foundation to buy Monsanto shares while it is giving money for agricultural projects in Haiti that promote the company’s seed and agrochemicals,” said Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Haitian Peasant Movement of Papaye and Caribbean coordinator of La Via Campesina at the time. “The peasant organizations in Haiti want to denounce this policy which is against the interests of 80 percent of the Haitian population, and is against peasant agriculture—the base of Haiti’s food production.”

The Gates Foundation more recently fell under scrutiny from the advocacy organization Global Justice Now, which released a report in January raising concerns about the institution’s track record on education, food and health care policies.

“The Gates Foundation has rapidly become the most influential actor in the world of global health and agricultural policies, but there’s no oversight or accountability in how that influence is managed,” said Polly Jones of Global Justice Now. “This concentration of power and influence is even more problematic when you consider that the philanthropic vision of the Gates Foundation seems to be largely based on the values of corporate America. The foundation is relentlessly promoting big business-based initiatives such as industrial agriculture, private health care and education. But these are all potentially exacerbating the problems of poverty and lack of access to basic resources that the foundation is supposed to be alleviating.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, raised eyebrows in December when they announced they would give away 99 percent of their wealth. As it turned out, this was not a giveaway at all, but a shifting of funds into their own limited liability company (LLC). Just weeks later, Zuckerberg lashed out at Indian media justice advocates who raised concerns about his company’s efforts to undermine net neutrality protections in their country.

Like many others, Massing is calling for greater transparency, not only for foundations but for think tanks, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and universities. Pointing to the website Inside Philanthropy, whose stated purpose is to “pull back the curtain on one of the most powerful and dynamic forces shaping society,” Massing argues that far greater and better-resourced scrutiny is needed. “There remains the question of how to pay for all this,” writes Massing, posing: “Is there perhaps a consortium of donors out there willing to fund an operation that would part the curtains on its own world?”

But some argue that we already have all the information we need to be concerned. In December, Vandana Shiva, an ecofeminist and activist, wrote in response to Zuckerberg’s move in India that a “collective corporate assault is underway globally. Having lined up all their ducks, veterans of corporate America such as Bill Gates are being joined by the next wave of philanthro-corporate Imperialists, including Mark Zuckerberg.”

“It is an enclosure of the commons,” she continued, “which are ‘commons’ because they guarantee access to the commoner, whether it be seed, water, information or internet.”

How Billionaires Use Non-Profits to Bypass Governments and Force Their Agendas on Humanity

Police say they were 'authorized by McDonald's' to arrest protesters, suit claims
Fight for $ 15 chapter in Memphis alleges that officers engaged in surveillance and intimidation of fast-food worker organization

Police claimed they had “authorization from the president of McDonald’s” to arrest protesting fast food workers, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed on Wednesday against the city of Memphis, Tennessee.

The suit alleges that local police engaged in a “widespread and illegal campaign of surveillance and intimidation” against a local chapter of the Fight for $ 15 fast-food worker organization as it campaigned for an increase in the minimum wage and union rights for fast food workers.

Officers followed organizers home after meetings, ordered workers not to sign petitions and blacklisted organizers from city hall, according to the suit. They claimed to have been authorized by McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain, and in one incident a McDonald’s franchisee joined police in tailing protesters.

The suit alleges that a campaign of harassment began after Memphis workers participated in a nationwide day of protest on 4 September 2014. Since then, police officers have repeatedly threatened workers with arrest during protests, at one point telling them they had “authorization from the president of McDonald’s to make arrests”. On “multiple occasions” officers “seemed to take direction from McDonald’s”, the complaint charges.

Last November, police officers stepped behind the counter of a fast-food restaurant to prevent workers from signing petitions calling for better working conditions, the protesters’ lawyers claim. They also allege that officers have enforced local permit laws on the predominantly black workers in the Fight for $ 15, while allowing protests by mostly white crowds to continue unabated.

The suit, brought against the city, Mayor James Strickland and the police director, Michael Rallings, alleges that the police have violated a 1978 consent decree that banned political surveillance following revelations the department had spied on civil rights activists, war protesters and other “radicals” for years.

McDonald’s was not immediately available for comment. The Memphis mayor’s office declined to comment on “pending litigation”.

The suit, filed in US district court for the western district Tennessee by the Fight for $ 15 mid-south organizing committee, alleges the Memphis police department [MPD] engaged in “improper and illegal surveillance tactics aimed at having a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and the right to assemble or associate”.

In February, Fight for $ 15 held a “teach-in” about Andy Puzder, the fast-food CEO who was, at the time, Donald Trump’s pick to be labor secretary.

According to the complaint, four unmarked cars and a patrol car showed up outside the teach-in and followed an organizer at the meeting’s conclusion. When an organizer asked one of the officers why he was being followed, the officer replied: “We’re just trying to make sure everyone stays safe.”

Jerry Martin, an attorney for the mid-south organizing committee, said: “The MPD is engaging in an intentional and illegal campaign to intimidate workers in an effort to prevent them from exercising their constitutional right to speak out … We’ve read about such behavior in history books, but unfortunately, in Memphis, intimidation and harassment of protesters is not just a thing of the past.”

Ashley Cathey, a Church’s Chicken worker and member of the Fight for $ 15 national organizing committee, said: “They’re trying to stop us from speaking out, but even though it’s riskier, we know we have a right to protest and we’re not going to be intimidated … Our Fight for $ 15 is changing the country and it’s the Memphis police department that’s going to have to change along with it.”

Police say they were 'authorized by McDonald's' to arrest protesters, suit claims

Automation Could Cause America to Lose 35% of its Tax Base in the Next 20 Years

Having a stable tax base is very important for any nation’s well-being but especially important when your budget is constantly running in the red.

35%

The United States is in danger of losing more than one-third of its tax base thanks to increasing automation in both manufacturing and service sectors. Self-driving vehicles, self-serve kiosks, increases in manufacturing and energy production efficiency, and declining retail numbers all contribute to what is likely going to be a significant problem in the coming decades.

It’s not that automation itself is a bad thing, within our lifetimes we will probably see the majority of our day-to-day activities be automated. However, the transition to an economy based on robots more than people is going to affect those who can ill-afford to lose their jobs the most.

20 Million

Conservative estimates put future job losses at 20 million with some estimates going up to as high as 70 million. When someone loses their job, they stop paying taxes, while their employers stop paying payroll and other types of taxes at the same time. Compounding the issue is the fact that many people who lose their jobs start to depend on the economic support of the government, along with their families.

Take a taxi driver in a medium-sized city for example: They may gross about $ 65,000/year, of which around $ 15,000 would be paid in taxes. Their employer is also likely paying around $ 10,000 in taxes related specifically to that one employee. When that person loses their job, the government loses out on $ 25,000 in taxes, not even counting the positive economic impact coming from that employee spending their income. Now, that former employee has to request government assistance since every taxi company is moving towards an automated model. $ 1500/month just for that individual and their family to survive equals a $ 43,000 swing the wrong way in government revenues. The extra profit generated by the taxi company is taxed at a far lower rate and may very well end up sitting in an investment account, not doing much to foster increased economic activity.

Multiply those numbers by 20-70 million and it’s easy to see we have a real problem on our hands. Higher taxes on those making less than $ 250,000/year from all sources would probably compound the problem. Higher corporate and capital gains tax rates would probably alleviate the problem, but while those types of tax increases are supported by a majority of the population, for some reason lawmakers don’t seem to agree.

A growing population and dwindling jobs will result in much higher levels of unemployment in working-age adults than we see now. To top it off, the number of people on either side of the working-age spectrum (under-18, over-67) are growing substantially. Something has to give at some point, whether that means the advent of a basic income system or substantial corporate/capital taxes, the transitional period we are currently in cannot last forever.

Automation Could Cause America to Lose 35% of its Tax Base in the Next 20 Years

Source: ONTD_Political

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